Esq. Apprentice

To ensure a more diverse legal profession, economic empowerment, and justice for all, Esq. Apprentice creates a debt-free path to law licensing for low-income youth of color.

The Problem

The pipeline to becoming a lawyer is broken for low-income youth of color like Patricia. At age 12, Patricia met an older man and fell in love. By 12 ½, Patricia was a sex worker in Oakland, California’s poorest neighborhoods. After an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage, Patricia decided to turn her life around and she went to Esq. Apprentice’s founder, Rachel Johnson-Farias, for help with sealing the various loitering offenses that had accumulated on her juvenile record over the years. The record sealing process inspired Patricia to become a lawyer and help trafficked girls like her. But, when Patricia learned that becoming a lawyer typically requires a GED, about four years of college, three years of law school, and hundreds of thousands of dollars, Patricia’s dream died. And it was that moment that inspired Rachel to start Esq. Apprentice because she knew: (1) the legal profession was losing a critically important and diverse voice; and (2) she had to do something about it.

Currently, fewer than 30% of the entire law student population identifies as people of color and the typical law student takes on $100,000 in debt. And, despite being overrepresented in California jails and prisons, people of color are grossly underrepresented among the California Bar, fewer than 7% of licensed lawyers in California are Black (2.7%) or Latino (4.2%) and only about 20% of lawyers identify as people of color.

The Solution

Esq. Apprentice is an Oakland, California based non-profit that helps low-income youth of color like Patricia complete California’s legal apprenticeship program and become attorneys without law school and without debt.

To create a world where the law works for and not against low-income people, we must create debt-free paths to law licensing so that the legal profession does not continue to lose diverse and vital voices like Patricia’s. To ensure a more diverse legal profession, economic empowerment, and justice for all, youth need clear, accessible paths to meaningful skills, training, and careers; paths that are flexible, culturally relevant, and do not create insurmountable debt. By formalizing California’s legal apprenticeship program, Esq. Apprentice propels the following theory of change: Economic, individualized, and culturally responsive academic investment in low-income youth of color spurs gainful employment, high-skilled careers, and a more diverse legal profession. Esq. Apprentice provides training, networks and skills for students to thrive, and empowers California youth to gain entry into and re-imagine the legal profession.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

Esq. Apprentice

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